Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nightstand - An update

Remember this post, in which I was concerned that my reading list had gotten a little out of hand and the floorboards below my nightstand where about to give way do to the volumes of novels needing my attention? Well, I have received a few inquiries regarding my progress. Here is an short update:

The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing - Even though this one was VERY close to trash, I picked it up and completed it rather quickly. It was surprisingly enjoyable, a very quick read, and fell into the "mindless entertainment" category that I so badly crave on occasion. Unfortunately if you want to read it, I cant loan it to you. Baby Bee ripped it apart page by page just hours after I finished it. I guess it was destine for "trash" after all.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Finished it this evening and another of Patty's recommendations did not disappoint. Wonderful read, went quickly and learned a lot about Chinese culture. Highly recommended.

Lost on the Forest - You know how many novels are good for the first 200 or so pages and hideously boring for the last 40? This was the opposite. The last 20 pages pulled the story together and made it interesting and the rest was a sleeper. Don't do it!

I am now starting The Memory Keepers Daughter which was not on my nightstand but caught my eye at Books a Million. My goal is clear my nightstand of everything but the light and a coaster by Christmas. Who thinks it can be done?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fair Winds and Following Seas ..............

My apologies for not blogging this week, Jeff and Susie returned from their latest European adventure and the girls have been soaking up all of their time. For some reason, watching TV at Papa and Susie's house is just better.

Yesterday I ceased my employment at the Coast Guard after over 15 years.

I will never forget my first day there, driving into what was an absolute slum where I knew no one but a man named John Hess (to whom I still adore). I quickly became well versed in bridge engineering principles, navigation rules, inter modal transportation issues, boating safety, performance measures and large scale acquisition program management. I watched technology change in unimaginable ways! When I got to HQ, we were using Document Designer ........ yesterday I turned in my Treo. The travel was decent, sometimes I was gone for longer then I wanted to be, but I picked up over 2/3 of the country for the scorecard of life.

I also was married, divorced, met Tom, finished an M.P.A, remarried, and had my 2 biggest reasons for living. I made some good friends who I will always treasure (and yes, they are blog readers) and lost some people too early.

All and all, it was a good ride. I am looking forward to my next DHS adventure, and to taking the good parts with me!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Cold Stone Creamerys Response

Here is the response I received to my e-mail to Cold Stone Creamery:

I am the owner of the Cold Stone that you visited today. I've read you're complaint, and would like to apologize for your experience.

I have no reasonable excuse for you. Unfortunately, we're already aware that this particular location is continuing to have more experiences like this than it should (it should have zero). Although we train and re-train the crews at our stores, this particular location simply gives us problems with regard to finding good crew members. We had fantastic crews the first couple of summers that the location was open, but this store simply no longer seems capable of running the way it used to. Furthermore, we're already aware that this happens far more than it should at this store, and we are doing everything we can to fix the problem.

Our manager certainly will be informed of your feedback, and he and I will address the problem and see that it is corrected. We'll be able to determine which shift supervisor and employee were in the store during your visit.

I certainly understand if you choose not to return to Cold Stone. However,if you do, please feel free to contact me directly to provide any and all feedback that you may choose to share. At the very least, understanding the details of your visit at this location gives us a chance to correct our problems.


Robert Solomon
Cold Stone Creamery
Northern Virginia, Alexandria - Arlington - Woodbridge
703-395-3249 Main240-526-5892 Fax

Let me see if I understand this correctly, not only is Robert Soloman aware of this situation and apparently has done little to improve it, he would like for me to be his own personal mystery shopper in the future?

If I were Mr. Soloman, I would be in that store daily serving ice cream with a smile until I get a capable crew in that location! Rather, he appears to be happy relying on first time only tourist business to keep that location above board.

Not only will I not be retuning to the Hoffman Center location, I will not be visiting any of the Cold Stone Creamery's in Alexandria, Arlington or Woodbridge.

Ben and Jerrys, here we come!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My E-mail to Cold Stone Creamery, Alexandria, VA

Today could have been better. Ms. Bean has been a little "green" over the past couple of days and after having to stay home with Baby Bee and her 104-fever/stomach issue earlier in the week, I didn't want to drag her to daycare just to get her out with a fever a few minutes later.
Besides, I needed to have both of them at the pediatrician at 2:00 so we all stayed home.

The morning was pleasant enough, despite a little "attitude", but who doesn't have one of those.

THEN, there was the visit to the pediatrician and subsequent realization that, as usual, MDIPA does not cover blood draws anywhere near the pediatrician (we need to go next week). Bee was crying from immunizations, Bean literally shaking from hearing that she needs a blood draw (should make for a nice weekend) and I received 3 annoying, work related calls while trying to stop 2 sets of tears.

When I got back to my car, the bumper was smashed, no note.

I needed to go potty, and I needed to fulfill my pre-peditration promise for Ice Cream.

This is where things really went down hill ...............................

I just had a horrendous experience at your Swamp Fox Road location in Alexandria VA.

The server did not say hello, she simply started at us until we spoke. She acted completely put out by having to serve us (even though there were only 6 people in the store and 4 of us were in my party), and could not have been more rude. Then, we were over charged by a second employee and argued with, because “the computer was ringing it up, not her”. In fact, I am not sure that my credit card was ever adjusted correctly.

The bottom line is that we were made to feel so very uncomfortable and unwanted that my 2 and 4 year old didn’t want to finish their ice cream.
The irony of this is that there are signs all over the store letting us know that we are in a “very happy place” and the “best store in America”. I hope for the sake of your company that is not the case. What happened to the Cold Stone Creamery’s with singing crews who treated customers with respect? Is that a thing of the past?

Please make certain that this e-mail finds it’s way to a general manager at that location or provide me with their contact information. I would really like for them to know the type of staff they have representing The Cold Stone Company.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

She REALLY loves me!

I think that it is very feasible that one day, Baby-bee (2 1/2) will grow up be an entomologist. As previously discussed in my blog, she is a huge fan of ants, spiders, dirt, and sand. If Susie has nightmares about it coming in her house, Baby-bee thinks of it as a "pet". Plain and simple.
Imagine my delight when this was sent home from preschool! It is a rubbing of a bug (in her favorite color, Red) and transcribed by her teacher are the words "an Ant for Mommy!".
I'm not sure that I have ever been this happy!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Generous Georges Reply

Well, I finally got a response to my e-mail to Generious Georges. I have posted their reply below, along with my reply to their reply:

I don't even know what to say or how to apologize for the horrible experience you had at Generous George's.

Let me first say I'm sorry I did not respond to this earlier, I have beenon vacation for the past week and George's mother passed away on the 4th so he has not been in the store or watching emails either.

I have talked with and disciplinary actions have been taken with the server that was supposed to have made your visit a happy time not a frustrating one. At this weeks manager and staff meetings I'll be handing out copies ofyour email, my plan is to use this as an educational tool showing the staff that how we look and how our actions can make or break GG's.

We had just had our sewage pipes flushed so I'm assuming that the smell wasleftover from that, this is done quarterly either late at night or earlymorning. The rest I have no excuse for.

We apologize and are very sorry to have losta long time customer. If you'd like to give us another shot I would like tosend you a gift certificate for your next visit.

Sincerely sorry,

Anne Hyde
General Manager

My Reply:

Anne -

Thankyou for your return e-mail. I am actually pleased to hear that both you and George were out of town during my visit, as it explains, in part, why things were in such disoray on 9-11-07.

I also appreciate your taking my comments so seriously. I was in food service for many years and thought that a respectable business like Generous Georges would want to be informed of such a clear drop in standards. I do ask that you remove all identifying information from my e-mail before distributing it to staff. While I have no reason to suspect that I might receive a "response" from the wait staff, I would just prefer to keep my contact information confidential.

A gift certificate would be appreciated. I don't know when the 4 of us will have the opportunity to meet again for a special lunch, but would like to return at some point. Your strike me as someone who will "whip the place into shape".

Best Regards!

I was easy on her, as my friend Patty thought that she sounded sincere. Now! Which of my 5 lucky readers would like to have lunch with me?

A 25% Increase in Readership!

My friend Marianne has informed me that she is a loyal reader (in addition to being an amazing seamstress and cook)! Now there are 5.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Piscataway Park

Today we rediscovered one of the areas hidden treasures.

The National Colonial Farm is about 9 miles outside of DC in Prince George's County and is designed to show people what life on a tobacco farm was like in the 1770's. When Tom and I were dating and living in Southern Maryland (12 years ago), we visited there a few times, primarily because it is surrounded by some gorgeous hiking trails on the Potomac which include the most picturesque views of Mount Vernon and the surrounding area.

We decided to go there when we rememered that they had farm animals and thought that the girls might enjoy seeing something a little different then the animals at the zoo or Oxon Hill Farm (and we had been to the zoo Saturday). We were very pleasently surprised and didn't even get over to most of the animal pens.

The park consists of costumed interpreters working on what would have been a middle class farm. The house, kitchen, gardens, animals, pastures and clothing are all exactly as they would have been in the pre-revolution period. They even do the chores at the same time that they would have had this been the 18th century. The entire staff, including the volunteer in the giftshop were delightful, and the kids LOVED it.

Actually, Ms. Bean really loved it. Baby Bee also had a wonderful time, primarily because she fell completely in love with one of the farm cats and got to play in dirt.

The wonderful volunteer who was cooking the "family's" lunch allowed Ms. Bean to be her special helper. They pealed turnips, picked rosemary and thyme from the garden, made their pie crusts, and cut Peaches together (Pork Chops and Peach Pie was for Super). When they were done with the seasoning, it was Ms. Beans job to take the Turnip peels and feed them to the pigs (we helped, but she did it all by herself).

The 2 room house is amazing, completely furnished as it would have been in revolutionary times, to include some antique spinning wheels (which Ms. Bean told her sister were for turning straw into gold) and straw beds.

They had a good selection of chickens, donkeys, re cows, sheep, pigs, and turkeys. This lovely lady was in a pasture behind the house and should be milking by spring .........

While picking lavender, Ms. Bean spotted this lady in her web. Check out the zig zag texture she spun! She must have wanted to make it extra special for visitors.

And a little closer (this one is for you, Patty)

All and all, a perfect outing! Go!

Citgo Gas

My friend Paul so enjoyed my e-mail to Generous Georges (which I still have received NO reply to), that he shared the following e-mail to Citgo. I think that he wanted me to repost it so that my readers would read and boycott. Secretly, I know that he is my only reader (actually I have 4, but 2 are out of the country and 1works for him and sees him everyday) but here we go anyway. If you are a reader, please think before purchasing gas at Citgo and NEVER GO TO GENEROUS GEORGES!

Good afternoon,

Again today I was reminded why I stopped using Citgo gas stations a while back.

I have a 24 gallon tank, and your pump automatically decided that I had gotten enough at 12.9 gallons. Of course, I could have opted to do another transaction and filled my tank, but guess what? I’ll use another gas station for that.

A $35 limit programmed into the pump, eh? Does anyone at Citgo know what gas prices are?

That’s one brilliant policy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

September 14, 2007

Today Baby-Bee is 2 1/2. She has become a little girl over the last 6 months. She asks questions, looks for answers, and spends as much time as possible investigating all of mother natures treasures.

Often I get frustrated with her because she becomes so absorbed with looking at, touching (and sometimes eating) all of the outdoor elements (dirt, flowers, leaves, grass, ants, etc) that she doesn't respond to our calls.

Her canned answer when I ask her what she did at school is "played with ants, and other bugs". This response is FAR different then the responses that I have come to expect from her more traditional and conservative sister.

I always need to remind myself that she is a person, and if we allow her to explore her interests, she will only grow in a positive direction. Baby Bee might become a marine biologist, or environmental activist, or forest ranger, and her present explorations are her early foundations.

We are delighted with who she is, look forward to knowing what she will become, and are privileged to have her in our lives.

Baby Bee - we adore you! Please don't grow up too fast sunshine! Mommy

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My E-mail to the Generous Georges on Duke Street, Alexandria VA

Hello. I have been a customer of yours for over 17 years, to include my annual coordination of a pre-marathon pasta event at your facility in Alexandria for up to 100 people. During the course of the last couple of years I have noticed your service going down while your prices went up, but over looked it because it was a good place to take kids and convenient to our home. My lunch experience today broke the camels back, and I am frankly shocked at how horrible dining at your establishment has become.

I took today off to be with my 2 young daughters and had my husband meet us as a special treat. This rarely happens and we looked forward to it all morning.

The service (if you call it service) was beyond atrocious. Since the sign said "seat yourself" we took a seat. We did not realize that this also meant got your own silverware, locate the highchairs and booster seats (and wipe them down yourself) and then search for 10 minutes for someone to take your order. We also needed to get our own menus (and wipe them down) but couldn't find the children's menu's. Our waitress who never told us her name and wore no name tag or I would certainly pass it on) was annoyed that we didn't find our own children's menus, I'm sorry.

Our drinks came in a reasonably short timeframe, but no straws accompanied them. When we asked a gentleman for them because our waitress was ignoring us, he said that he would get them if we couldn't find our waitperson. NICE. Did I mention that the 2 of them were only serving 9 tables? Not exactly "in the weeds".

I needed to send my food back because my pasta was cold. The girls small pizza which I told her they would be splitting turned out to be a burned and uncutable mini pizza, and the waitress told me that it was my fault I misordered because you have no "small pizza" just a regular pizza which is not what I asked for. We ordered a second mini-pizza which came 20 minutes later with a lot of prodding from me. CLEARLY it was not made a priority in the kitchen. My husband did not tell me how his meatball sandwich was because I was so mad at this point he didn't want me to blow. But, it looked small.

The servers were filthy and I wont even get into the fact that the whole front of the restaurant smelled of urine, I am sure that the health department will take care of both of these issues.

We did get the check after asking for it, but, the waitress NEVER came back to get it. She had disappeared. The same gentleman that was covering her butt the whole meal finally took care of it for us because the girls were really fussy at this point and my husband desperately needed to get back to work.

Generally I would just blow this off, tell my friends NEVER to go to Generous Georges and forget the experience. However, the dismissive manner in which we were treated by our waitress was inexcusable and therefore resulted in my comments. It is a shame that a beloved neighborhood establishment can become such a horrendous dump in such a short period of time.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lifes little frusteration - #604

Once in a while I discover a little annoyance that I need to discuss. This is one of those times. And, since this is my blog, indulge me ..............

Who the fuck invented the Juice Bag and can we kill them !!!!!!!!????????????

I for one, have NEVER been able to get the straw into those idiotic packages without covering myself with a liquid that resembles the crap that one would put in their humming bid feeder. And, I always find myself struggling with them when one of the kids is crying because they are desperately thirsty. Most recently this occurred at my nieces birthday party, but at the time I was reminded that it happens every single time!

Is it operator error, or, is this a universal problem that just isn't discussed?

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Remember this entry from 4 September? Well, it is 4 days later, and Susie and Jeff's marriage has now survived THREE floods. For better or worse .............

Friday, September 7, 2007

What? No World Peace?

Ms. Bean (4) will , on occasion, say 5 wishes out loud when playing Webkinz "wishing well". These were today's:

1) I wish that I would not be afraid of Cinderella 3
2) I wish I could be a mermaid
3) I wish that my family would stay great
4) I wish I could have my own computer
5) I wish that I could read my own books

Simplicity is wonderful.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 43rd Anniversary to Susie and Jeff.
Together, they have shared 2 weddings, 2 children, 4 grandchildren, 5 dogs, 3 cats, 9 moves, and, 11 vehicles (including a VW Micro bus!).
Additionally, there were 3 floods, a "paint malfunction", and too many broken furnaces, hot water heaters and appliances to count.
Regardless, right now they are sharing lunch together, enjoying retirement together, and running off to Europe next week, "just because they can". How cool is that!?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy Labor Day!

Well ............. this is the official last day of summer, pools, and the distant sound of children's voices laughing in the evening air. Soon we will be fully engrossed in Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving Pageants and, of course, a visit from "THE BIG ONE"! What a difference a few weeks makes!

The girls slept in this morning (well, Ms. Bean did, Baby-Bee was up at 0700) and Tom is making breakfast before our last trip to the pool. I am anxious to go downstairs and join them.

I guess that since it it Labor Day, we should take a few seconds to thank those in the service industry who make our lives easier and more enjoyable. This includes those in our local food industry who contribute to making living in Old Town so fabulous! My good friend Don forward this article from Sundays New York Times which highlights just a few of our culinary treasures. Recommend a at least 2 local reservations between now and new years in our fine city, and, enjoy!

A Town Takes Its Place at the Culinary Table
ALEXANDRIA, VA., is only 10 minutes by car from downtown
Washington, but the two restaurant scenes once felt decades apart. On one side of the Potomac River, you had nouvelle American bistros and fancy steakhouses packed with Washington insiders and their hefty expense accounts. On the other, there were Applebee's and stodgy French dining rooms seemingly preserved in amber.
But the past is catching up. In recent years, young chefs and ambitious restaurateurs from Washington have crossed the Potomac and planted their knives in the Old Town section, where the Federal-style row houses date to when George Washington rode up from nearby Mount Vernon to talk of cutting ties with
Britain. Drawn by the area's new professional class, lower rents and a blank culinary canvas, fashionable new spots are serving dishes like oysters with beer jellies and sourdough flan with fresh sardines — offerings that were unthinkable not long ago.
Among the first to dip his culinary toes across the Potomac was Cathal Armstrong. The former chef at
Bistro Bis, a Capitol Hill favorite among the powerbroker set, he left in 2004 to open Restaurant Eve (110 South Pitt Street, 703-706-0450,, a casually elegant, sunlit bistro on a red-brick paved street in the heart of Old Town. “People said we were crazy,” Mr. Amstrong said, in his light Irish brogue. “The sentiment was ‘we're not going to cross the moat.' ”
The foodies, it turned out, were already there. Former rail yards were being developed for town houses and attracting people who knew the difference between gnocchi and gnudi. On any given night, Eve's dining rooms are packed with young commuter couples and members of the local horse-country set, who tuck into French-style dishes like pork belly confit with fava beans and oregano ($28), and stuffed rabbit with chanterelles and
garden peas ($31).
As word spread, Mr. Armstrong responded by opening more restaurants: Eamonn's A Dublin Chipper (728 King Street, 703-299-8384;, a fish-and-chips place with a popular cocktail bar, PX; and the Majestic (911 King Street, 703-837-9117;, a 1932 diner that now serves comfort dishes like fried green tomatoes — locally grown, of course — and seafood risotto with squid, shrimp, mussels and salmon ($14.50).
Other chefs soon followed and turned King Street, the main street in Old Town, into a gas-lamp restaurant row. Some were drawn to Alexandria's more intimate dining rooms, where fewer seats and a bigger kitchen are the norm.
Anthony Chittum left Notti Bianche, a bustling Italian restaurant in the Foggy Bottom district of Washington, to take the helm at
Vermilion (1120 King Street, 703-684-9669; In an old town house with exposed brick walls and flickering gas lamps that mimic those on the sidewalks, Vermilion has a relaxed, unpretentious vibe. The menu features new American cuisine like corn chowder with jalapeños and fried Nomini Creek oysters ($9) and sautéed diver scallops with pesto and pickled red onions ($16).
The small-town pace also allows chefs to spread their creative wings. “I could do exactly what I want,” said Morou Ouattara, an “Iron Chef” contestant who ran the kitchen at Signatures, a lavish restaurant in the Penn Quarter section of Washington that was owned by the lobbyist
Jack Abramoff.
After Signatures closed, instead of working for another Washington restaurateur, Mr. Ouattara opened his own establishment in Old Town.
Farrah Olivia (600 Franklin Street, 703-778-2233; is decorated in chocolate browns and giraffe-like patterns that recall the owner's Ivory Coast upbringing. It serves American cuisine with French, African and Japanese touches and molecular gastronomy techniques. Dishes include escolar (a mackerel-like fish) that is pan-seared then shocked in an ice-cold marinade and served with pickled watermelon rind ($12). Anise-flavored gnudi (poached ravioli stuffing without the pasta) is topped with a Parmesan foam ($18).
Among the newest arrivals is Frank Morales, the former chef at
Zola, the power restaurant in Penn Quarter where he garnered rave reviews. Attracted by Old Town's up-and-coming restaurant scene, Mr. Morales jumped ship early this year and joined Rustico (827 Slaters Lane, 703-224-5051;, an upscale pub that serves modern American cuisine and 310 varieties of beer and ale.
In addition to novelty creations like hop brittle and beer salt, Mr. Morales offers “trios” that include three dishes with a flight of beer, priced separately. The $17 duck trio, for example, matches a foie gras spring roll with a Belgian lambic beer,
St. Louis Framboise, and a moist duck confit with Gouden Carolus Grand Cru, a Belgian ale brewed to commemorate the birthday of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Feb. 24).
Hotels have joined in Alexandria's culinary ascent. Kimpton Hotels, for example, is turning a former Holiday Inn on King Street into Hotel Monaco. Set to open this fall, the hotel's restaurant, Jackson 20, will be run by the
Houston chef Jeff Armstrong, known for his modern Southern cuisine.
Other high-end restaurants are on their way. This month, Jamie Leeds, who owns the ever-crowded Hank's Oyster Bar in Washington, will bring her popular lobster rolls and raw seafood bar to Old Town (1026 King Street, Cathal Armstrong is looking to open a bakery and charcuterie.
And Mr. Ouattara, who named his first restaurant after his daughter, has another daughter, Kora. “She's only 16 months old, but I have to do something,” he said. “I have to open another restaurant for her.”

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Were did the Babies go ?????

Today we took down baby-bee's crib and moved her into Ms. Beans bed. Ms. Bean gave up the toddler bed and moved into the big girl bed. Tom washed and folded up the crib sheets and mattress pad. I know that it was time, evidenced by the fact that baby-bee has already found her way out of her new bed to complain about her scratchy blanket (it took her sister 5-days to figure out that she was mobile when not sleeping in a crib).

The girls are laying in bed discussing the events of the day, and tomorrows trip to the farm. I am tearing up and hiding from the girls ............. not wanting them to know that I am having trouble with their latest milestone. Does watching them grow ever get any easier?